DALLAS — Jim Fairchild grew up in a family that not only honored, but expected, public service.
The former mayor, city councilor, coach and teacher was the embodiment of that philosophy in his decades of service to Dallas residents and students.
“He was a much admired and loved guy,” said Dallas Mayor Brian Dalton. “Everybody loved Jim, and everyone had their reasons for it, because he lived in a lot of different worlds — education, government, sports, leadership, fire department. A lot of different worlds and he made an impact in every single one of them.”
Fairchild, 79, died on May 1 in Dallas, after battling cancer (for Fairchild’s full obituary, page A8.) He was a teacher for almost 30 years, a coach for just as long, and served in city government for 20 years. He resigned from the city council earlier this year after winning re-election to the post in November.
At Monday’s Dallas City Council meeting, Dalton asked for a moment of silence to commemorate Fairchild’s dedication to the city.
Chelsea Teal, the former executive director of the Dallas Area Chamber of Commerce, said she met Fairchild as a new arrival to Dallas.
“I was new to the community, an implant from the Seattle area, but eager to get involved and make Dallas my home,” she said. “Jim took me under his wing, recommending that I get involved with a local organization and suggested the chamber.”
Eventually, the pair would work together on initiatives at the chamber and Dallas Area Visitors Center.
Teal spoke at the Dallas Community Awards in February, at which Fairchild received the Lifetime Achievement Award. She said Fairchild’s sister, Suzan Turley, shed light his upbringing.
“We were a tight-knit family that was expected to stick up for each other at all times,” Teal said, quoting Suzan. “Jim was the good child and rarely in trouble. Captain of the football team, school leader, church youth group leader and a wonderful artist. We grew up being told that volunteering and giving back in our community was expected and living somewhere is a privilege that should be repaid by assisting others in any way needed.”
Fairchild took that seriously.
Teal said Fairchild volunteered more than 15,000 hours of his time as a city councilor; mayor; EMT and fire department volunteer; and in the many roles he played with the Mid-Willamette Council of Governments, League of Oregon Cities, and National League of Cities.
“That is a lifetime achievement,” she said.
His life in Dallas began in 1966, when he took a job as a language arts teacher at Dallas High School. He coached a variety of teams, and often used sports references in lessons he would impart, Dalton said.
Ken Woods Jr., a city councilor who served alongside Fairchild, was a senior in high school when Fairchild began working at DHS. He didn’t have him as a teacher.
“But he was always on the football field as Coach Fairchild,” Woods said.
Years later the two would be opponents in a race for mayor, which Fairchild won. Woods was appointed council president after the election. Woods said Fairchild would call him for advice on city matters.
“We worked together on a lot of things for the city,” Woods said. “We usually agreed on everything. That’s the interesting thing, and there were a couple times that we didn’t agree, but that’s OK. We don’t have to agree on everything.”
That may have included a couple calls on the football field. Woods was a high school and college official for 40 years. Sometimes he would officiate football games at Linfield, Fairchild’s alma mater.
“He would ask questions about this and that, and ‘Why did you do that? It shouldn’t have been a penalty,’” Woods said, smiling. “I would say: ‘It’s a penalty now Jim. It may not have been when you were playing, but it is now.’ We had many conversations about the game.”
Woods said he will miss Fairchild’s kindness the most.
“He was your basic nice guy, a good guy,” he said.
In addition to receiving the Dallas lifetime achievement award, Fairchild was honored by the council and Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments this year. He humbly accepted the awards, and pointed out why he did as much as he did.
“Yes, I’ve given you a lot of time, and I’ve loved every minute of it,” Fairchild said when accepting the Dallas lifetime achievement award. “I hope we made … things better for whoever comes after us.”